So as we approach Easter Sunday, it made me think of a sports story that ended up having some religious overtones, with the play being coined the “Immaculate Reception”.
Most sports fans, and certainly football fans, and for sure fans of the Pittsburg Steelers remember the pass reception by Franco Harris as one of those plays that will live forevermore in football lore.
December 23, 1972. Yes, Marijane’s birthday. But it was about 13 years before I met her, so that is not part of the story. I do remember the play though, because it was the Divisional Finals between the Oakland Raiders and the Steelers, one of the biggest games of the year. Problem was that I was on the road up to a cabin near Big Bear, to stay with my brother Tom and Mary Helen and probably others. So, as has happened to me so many times during the television era, I was left to listen to a major moment in sports on the radio. I still can remember standing in the kitchen of that cabin, listening to the announcer describe one of the most historical plays in all of football history…later to become known as the Immaculate Reception.
There is plenty of background to the setting and the play, but to make it short and sweet on this rainy Thursday night, the Steelers were facing fourth-and-10 on their own 40-yard line with 22 seconds remaining in the game and no time-outs. The Steelers trailed 7-6. Yes, 7-6.
Terry Bradshaw’s desperation pass bounced off of Frenchy Fuqua and then off of Jack Tatum, defensive cornerback for the Raiders. The ball flew backward and was caught by Franco Harris just inches off the ground. Somehow, Franco was in the right place at the right time….he dodged two defenders and sprinted the 35 yards to the end zone. The Steelers won the game 13-7. SSOMG notes that although the Steelers went on to lose the AFC championship a week later, the heroics and luck of Bradshaw and Harris would lead to a turning point in the Steelers history. They would proceed to win four Super Bowls in the next 6 years.
I doubt if anything like the Immaculate Reception will happen this weekend. With our virus crisis, sports are at a standstill. Instead we watch re-runs of past games and sporting events, and read stories about the exciting moments long gone. SSOMG was pleased to “witness” Franco’s reception, and looks forward to plenty of new adventures in the years ahead.
Good catch Franco!